|NFL DRAFT: Super Bowl champions looking to improve defense, as usual, in draft|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 23 April 2007 06:05|
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -Tony Dungy's short offseason consisted of the usual victory laps. A parade in Indianapolis, the Lombardi Trophy tour, speaking engagements and Monday's trip to the White House.|
Somehow, Dungy still managed to get some work accomplished. His task: catching up on the draft so he can put the pieces in place to defend a Super Bowl title.
``I'm a little behind,'' Dungy said recently of his prep work. ``We're going to try and add depth and develop players.''
It's become an annual tradition for Super Bowl champions in the salary-cap age. Win on the field, lose in free agency, reload through the draft.
Since beating the Chicago Bears in February to win the NFL title, the Colts have lost two assistant coaches and three starters - cornerback Nick Harper, linebacker Cato June and running back Dominic Rhodes. Indy could lose another starter, cornerback Jason David, if it doesn't match New Orleans' four-year offer sheet this week.
Defensive tackle Montae Reagor and third receiver Brandon Stokley were released in cost-cutting moves, and the Colts still haven't decided what to do with former Pro Bowl defensive tackle Corey Simon. Still looming are negotiations with three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Dwight Freeney, who wants a long-term deal after being given the franchise tag in February.
They've overcome the losses before. Remember Edgerrin James last year?
But in the Dungy era, they've never faced such a wide-ranging exodus. That makes this weekend the most critical of the offseason for the Super Bowl champs.
Fortunately for Indy, it still has the steady hand of team president Bill Polian, a master of finding bargains near the end of the first round. Since 2001, Polian has added Pro Bowl receiver Reggie Wayne and former Pro Bowl safety Bob Sanders; starting tight end Dallas Clark; and starting running back Joseph Addai. Nne of the picks came higher than 24th.
So what does Polian intend to do at No. 32?
Probably try to solidify a defense that ranked last in the NFL against the run during the regular season and has been decimated by free agency. Dungy doesn't think the choice is that clear cut.
``We lost more on defense than we did on offense,'' Dungy said. ``But the key is to continue to get good players, whether they're on offense or defense.''
The conventional wisdom until last week was that the Colts would try to plug holes at linebacker, where they struggled badly during the '06 regular season. Some believed Polian's first choice was Penn State's Paul Posluszny, who has been compared to another Polian favorite, Shane Conlan. But Posluszny almost certainly won't be around that late.
Another possibility is Miami's Jon Beason, whose smallish frame and speed would fit perfectly into Dungy's defense.
The problem is Indy does not usually put a premium on linebackers, letting four starters - Mike Peterson, Marcus Washington, David Thornton and now June - walk away since the end of 2002.
Others think the best value would come along the defensive line with ends Anthony Spencer of Purdue and LaMarr Woodley of Michigan and tackle Justin Harrell of Tennessee expected to be available.
If David leaves, though, things could change.
back in the first round since 1984.
Polian could also pull a surprise by looking for a receiver, such as Southern Cal's Dwayne Jarrett or Steve Smith, to replace Stokley.
But with so many holes to fill and no second-round pick, Polian could do just what Dungy suggests and take the most talented player available, regardless of position.
``You won't know how things are going to go, but Bill always does a good job,'' Dungy said. ``We've gotten a lot of good players when we've picked down there before, and that's what we need to do this year, too.''
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